Putting the ‘Ability’ in Sustainability

Sustainability experts now know the most effective actions we as individuals can take to mitigate the negative impact on the environment and reduce our individual carbon footprint, and it isn’t electric cars and recycling.

Scientists now say the highest-impact action one can take to reduce the carbon emissions contributing to climate change is actually an inaction – either don’t have children or have one fewer child than planned.

Having children isn’t exactly the same sort of lifestyle choice as, say, choosing to drive a Prius, but aside from bringing one less consumer of natural resources into the world, is there anything else that can match that degree of proactivity in reducing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere? Not really, but there are some less drastic ways to approach the issue.

The next high-impact practice is not switching to an electric car, but deciding to live car-free. Again, highly effective, but not as feasible to many of us.

With these top two options for saving the planet essentially being the top two non-options for many of us, it’s our responsibility and our duty to adopt as many of the other sustainable practices as possible, many of which can be reasonably practiced, every day, by even the busiest of us.

Recycling is a given. If you’re still throwing plastic water bottles into the trash instead of the recycle bin, you’re out of excuses. And if you have already accepted that recycling is now mandatory as we face a future of landfill closures and the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into the ocean every minute, then it’s time to take the next step in carbon footprint reduction.

One action of moderate impact is to simply stop eating meat. It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. The beef industry is the No. 1 consumer of freshwater in the world, and even giving up eating meat just one day per week reduces as much CO2 emissions as driving 1,600 miles in a combustible engine car. Further still, if you replaced all your beef meals with chicken, this would lead to a reduction of 882 pounds of carbon emissions.

And if you forewent just one round-trip trans-Atlantic flight this year, you would reduce carbon emissions by 1,571 pounds.

This month, the Fairhaven Sustainability Committee challenged the entire SouthCoast to join them in participating in the Drawdown EcoChallenge to take on the 100 most substantive solutions to global climate change at the individual level.

The Fairhaven Sustainability Committee formed an EcoChallenge team, appropriately called Team SouthCoast, and reached out to the entire region to join them in stretching ourselves to explore ways we can further reduce our CO2 emissions. They are proud to announce that they are currently ranked 26 out of 705 teams worldwide.

The Drawdown EcoChallenge introduces the participant to new and innovative ways to make an impact by providing tools and inspiration to turn intention into action in areas such as food, land use, transport, materials, women and girls, and buildings and cities. In other words, “Small, but not insignificant contributions,” said Sustainability Committee member and EcoChallenge participant Susan Spooner.

Although the EcoChallenge ends April 25, another is slated for October 3-24, with registration beginning in August.

For more information about the upcoming 2018 EcoChallenge, visit www.ecochallenge.org.

What are some other small but important steps you can take? Skip the straw. The U.S. alone uses up about 500 million plastic single-use straws every single day. Straws literally suck because they never fully degrade; rather, they break down into bits and pieces and wind up in every level of the food chain.

You can also remember to bring your cloth bags with you to the market and keep a few reusable grocery bags in your trunk for those impromptu shopping stops. Plastic grocery bags are vile contributors to pollution on so many levels, from the disgusting sight of them stuck in tree branches and bushes to the 12 million barrels of oil it takes to make the nearly 100 billion bags we use each year. They also take at least 500 years to break down.

We also really need to reduce our use of Styrofoam and plastic disposable cups from the coffee shop. We use about 500 billion one-use disposable coffee cups every year.

Another good place to start is to take the EPA’s carbon footprint calculator at https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/ to see where you can better save on greenhouse gas emissions (and money) and reduce your household’s overall impact on the Earth.

Sometimes it helps to organize with others. There are a number of Earth Day events planned for the Tri-Town where you can get into the spirit of taking action to protect the environment and ultimately your health and the health of your children.

Saturday, April 21, is the Rochester Town-Wide Cleanup sponsored by the Rochester Land Trust and Rochester Women’s Club at 37 Marion Road from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Trash bags and gloves are provided, and the RLT will also take your old electronics and appliances for a small fee.

Saturday, April 28, is Marion’s Earth Day Trash Bash, the annual Scout-led town-wide cleanup in conjunction with the Marion Recreation Department, DPW, and Tabor Academy. The troops rally at Washburn Park starting at 8:30 am until 11:30 am, and yellow safety vests, trash bags, and gloves are provided. The litter collected will be brought back to Washburn Park for a “trash mountain,” a visual testament to both the amount of trash littering the streets of Marion and the efforts that morning of those who care.

By Jean Perry


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